While Stonehenge has been speculated to be many things, the oldest village in Britain hasn’t been one of them … until now. Carbon dating on findings from a nearby archeological dig confirm that the parish of Amesbury, the town where Stonehenge resides, has been continuously occupied since 8820 BCE, resulting in the Guinness Book of Records giving it the official title as Britain’s oldest settlement.
The dig took place last year at Vespasian’s Camp, Blick Mead, a mile and a half from Stonehenge, and was led by David Jacques from the University of Buckingham. Researchers there found bones of aurochs – extinct wild cattle twice the size of current bovines, wild boar and red deer that were carbon dated back 10,000 years. They also found tools and other evidence that the land had been cleared, which indicates it had been farmed by people who settled there rather than merely visited by nomadic tribes as was previously thought.
Jacques says this answers the question of why Stonehenge is where it is.
The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways. It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments. The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself. The first monuments at Stonehenge were built by these people.
While residents of Amesbury and fans of Stonehenge are the clear winners in this discovery, there are a couple of losers as well. Thatcham in Berkshire, which has been occupied since 7700 BCE, drops to second place. And the dig site is the same one where it was discovered that Mesolithic Britons were eating frogs legs about eight millennia before the French.
There’s nothing like killing two birds with one Stonehenge.